Review | Ursula Martinez subtly explores human divisions in Free Admission

Free Admission | State Theatre Centre | til 18th Feb | ★ ★ ★ ½ 

This years artist in residence for the Perth Festival, Ursula Martinez, has left her mark on several notable shows, including Fringe World Festival’s Bitch on Heat . Her shows are renowned for their provocative, autobiographical content – and her propensity for nudity. Free Admission is no different.

She starts each new statement with the word “sometimes” – and sometimes these thoughts are funny. It was fascinating to hear how the audience respond to these random thoughts, as different parts of the room responded differently to different aspects. Her early reminiscing on the kind of racist rhymes in 1970s schoolyards drew laughter from, I suspect, people who remembered that time well and still half agreed with the sentiments. As the rhymes became more explicit – and included the “n” word – the laughter stopped from all but a minority.

This is a pattern that continues throughout the show. Martinez bounces from topic to topic – beginning with seemingly inconsequential memories and stories that become darker and darker. All the while she is building a wall, slowly hiding herself from the audience. I never got the impression that she was revealing more of her inner self. In fact, for a show that is so personal, there was very little emotion. The most authentic statements came in the very first minute of the show, when she admitted her jealousy of Catherine Tate and Graham Norton.

And through all of this, Martinez is building a wall. She does it without ever referencing the fact – instead she just keeps slathering on the mortar and tapping away on the bricks with a rhythm that is almost hypnotic.

It’s what happens when the wall is finished that is possibly the most interesting part of the show. The ending may – or may not – take you by surprise.

Free Admission is an incredibly subtle and nuanced examinations of the divisions we create as human beings.

Free Admission is showing this weekend at the Theatre Underground at the State Theatre Centre as part of Perth Festival. Tickets available here. 

Rebecca Bowman

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